We don't do a lot of formal dining the rest of the year, and then suddenly the holiday season is upon us and we have to remember if elbows on the table is a "do" or a "don't" at Grandma's house. We're curious what you consider to be the most essential elements of table manners and etiquette — during the holidays and the rest of the year, too! I think there are the tangible manners like chewing with your mouth closed and sitting up straight at the table. And then there are the less tangible manners like making conversation and offering to serve the person next to you. I grew up being taught the first kind by repetition and grew up observing the second in the adults around me. Both feel crucial to good table manners to me now.
But the only true rule at my table is no cell phones. I feel that if we're all physically sitting down to eat a meal together, we should be there mentally as well. And if that email or tweet-reply can't wait until the end of the meal, I'd rather you excuse yourself for a minute than suddenly zone out of the conversation while checking your phone under the table.